November 15, 2011
Our first stop today will be at Mdina. The major points of interest included St. Paul’s Cathedral, Palazzo Falson (Norman House), Vilhena Palace (now home of the National Museum of Natural History, Carmelite Church & Convent, Palazzo Santa Sophia, and Palazzo Gatto Murina.
Mdina is the old capital of Malta. Mdina is a medieval walled town situated on a hill in the centre of the island. Punic remains uncovered beyond the city’s walls suggest the importance of the general region to Malta’s Phoenician settlers. Mdina is commonly called the “Silent City” by natives and visitors.
The town is still confined within its walls, and has a population of less than three hundred, but it is contiguous with the village of Rabat, which takes its name from the Arabic word for suburb, and has a population of over 11,000.
The Magisterial Palace, erected by Vilhena in about 1730, now converted to a Museum of Natural History, in St. Publius Square, replaces the Town Hall or Municipium of the local Government (the Universita’) which had been constructed c. 1454. Following the earthquake of 1693 Grand Master Vilhena took the opportunity not only to embellish the entrance but also to construct in the area his Magisterial Palace. In 1908 Palazzo Vilhena, transformed into a hospital, was formally inaugurated by King Edward VII and named Connaught Hospital after the King’s brother, the Duke of Connaught. the hospital closed in 1956. On 22 June 1973 the building was reopened as the National Musuem of Naturlal History.
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